In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 11
2012 NFL Draft picks: One - WR Mohamed Sanu (3rd round, No. 83 overall)
Prior to Greg Schiano taking over the Rutgers' football program, success was pretty tough to come by on the gridiron for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers had endured a span of just five winning seasons in 25 years and, not surprisingly, wasn't a consistent producer of NFL talent. In fact, dating back to 1940, Rutgers saw multiple Scarlet Knights drafted in a single year by the NFL only four times (1959, 1977, 1983, 1996). Each of these years there were exactly two Rutgers players drafted.
Under Schiano, however, the program emerged as a legitimate power in the Big East and NFL scouts started paying attention. All three of the first round picks out of Rutgers game during the Schiano era (Kenny Britt, Anthony Davis, McCourty) as did Baltimore Ravens' star running back Ray Rice.
Even with Schiano and much of his staff leaving to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his fingerprints remain all over this program. New head coach Kyle Flood served as Schiano's assistant coach (and offensive line coach) and therefore many of the same principles will be stressed.
Because of this, as well as the fact that Rutgers boasts some of the best individual talent in the Big East, Flood's first season at the helm could be a productive one for the Scarlet Knights.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OLB Khaseem Greene (6-1, 230)
Greene is a perfect example of one reason why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are excited about their new head coach. Greene (pictured above) signed with Rutgers as a relatively low priority safety prospect but as he grew, Schiano and his staff elected to move him to weakside linebacker, where he emerged as arguably the most impactful defender in the Big East a season ago. This wasn't the case of a talented player riding the bench. Greene demonstrated his playmaking ways early on, tying for the team lead in interceptions as a redshirt freshman (despite only starting one game) and then leading the team with three interceptions as a full-time starting free safety in 2010 (also posting 77 tackles and four forced fumbles). While productive as a defensive back, few anticipated Greene's explosion in 2011 as the Big East's leading tackler (141), earning him the conference's co-Defensive MVP honors. Greene would have been even more productive had he not suffered a gruesome broken leg in the Pinstripe Bowl victory over Iowa State. Rehabilitation kept Greene sidelined this spring but he's reportedly worked hard in the weight room in an attempt to add the size and strength necessary to remain at linebacker in the NFL. As a side note, Greene is the half-brother of Pittsburgh's star running back Ray Graham, who was recognized yesterday as the Panthers' top prospect for the 2013 NFL draft, as well.
2. CB Logan Ryan (6-0, 190)*
While the majority of the attention given to Rutgers last season revolved around Big East record-breaking wideout Sanu and the Scarlet Knights' talented linebacker corps, Ryan -- in his first full season as a starter -- proved why he was the top-rated prep cornerback in the state of New Jersey by enjoying a breakout campaign in which he registered 67 tackles, 14 passes broken up and three interceptions to earn Second Team All Big East accolades. Frankly, he may have been short-changed by the Big East coaches as Ryan seemed to improve as the season went on, culminating with a strong performance in the Pinstripe Bowl in which he was seemingly everywhere, registering seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss (including half a sack), broke up two passes and intercepted another. I'm not ready to annoint Ryan yet as the next Devin McCourty -- the only Rutgers' defensive back to ever earn a first round pick -- but if he makes the same gains in his junior campaign that he did last season Ryan could have the luxury of considering making the jump to the NFL with eligibility still remaining.
3. ILB Steve Beauharnais (6-2, 235)
Considering the fact that Greene earned the Big East's co-Defensive Player of the Year a season ago, it is easy to understand why he earned top-billing throughout the year. However, in the eyes of some scouts, the better pro prospect could prove to be one of the Scarlet Knights' "other" linebackers -- Steve Beauharnais (pronounced bo-HAR-ness). Unlike Greene, who is best suited to the weakside or WILL position in the 4-3 alignment, Beauharnais has the size and physicality to play in either scheme, inside or out. In terms of total tackles, his statistics last season (77) weren't jaw-dropping in comparison to other highly regarded inside linebackers throughout the country but a closer look reveals Beauharnais' versatility (11 tackles for loss, including five sacks) and instincts in coverage (three interceptions). Possessing the fiery leadership and short, squatty frame well suited to remaining inside in the NFL, Beauharnais could surprise as a top 100 candidate in April should his steady play continue in 2012.
4. TE D.C. Jefferson (6-5, 258)
Jefferson signed with Rutgers as a highly regarded prep quarterback and remained at this position until halfway through camp of his redshirt freshman season (2009). Jefferson offers a rare combination of size and athleticism and quickly ascended into a starting role, starting 10 games in his first year at the position, including the second game of the season. While Jefferson's upside is intriguing, frankly, he remains largely the same player now that he was when he first made the switch, showing limited strength at the point of attack and rarely getting involved in the passing game. While seeing action in all 25 of Rutgers' games the past two seasons, Jefferson has just 22 catches during that time for 284 yards and a single touchdown. Because the tight end hasn't been a featured element of Rutgers' offense over the Schiano era, Jefferson's pedestrian statistics aren't significant concern to scouts, who only see a big, athletic target whose best football may still lie ahead of him.
5. WR Mark Harrison (6-3, 230)
Throughout Schiano's tenure as head coach, the Scarlet Knights have featured a vertical passing attack that has led to some eye-popping production from talented receivers. Sanu, of course, left as the school's all-time receptions leader but most of his catches came over the middle. Prior to him was more classic outside burners like Kenny Britt, Tiquan Underwood and Tim Brown, among others. As late as a year ago Harrison looked poised to join these ranks, catching 44 passes for 829 yards and nine scores to overshadow Sanu. Rather than take off in 2010, however, Harrison slid back, struggling with drops amid the expecations of becoming a superstar. While he averaged a gaudy 19.6 yards per catch a season ago, his production slipped mightily and he finished with "just" 14 grabs for 274 yards and two scores -- a catch total that ranked him fifth on the team. Harrison has the blend of size and speed that every scout is looking for but to earn more than late round or free agent considerations, he'll need to revert back to the consistent playmaking form he showed earlier in his career.
DT Scott Vallone (6-3, 278)
CB Brandon Jones (6-0, 186)
SS Duron Harmon (6-1, 201)
WR Brandon Coleman (6-5, 220)*
OT RJ Dill (6-7, 300)
For more 2012 college football draft previews click here.
Photo credit: US Presswire